Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When I Grow Up ~ Part 2

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hate this question. It's the twisted cousin to the benign childhood question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I started tackling that answer in this post. So now, I'm picking up where that story left off...

Ever since having children, I have really struggled with wanting to carve out a successful, meaningful career while still being incredibly involved & active in raising my children. This is a struggle for working moms everywhere & a simple internet search will turn up countless articles supporting this statement. In a perfect world, if money were no obstacle, I would stay home every day with my little ones, having learning time, playtime, field trips to the library/zoo/children's museum & just enjoying watching them grow. Jesse loves his work & is very dedicated to his ministry, so I would be content to allow him to flourish in that career & blossom in my own as a full-time mommy. However (reality check!), a youth ministry paycheck & lack of benefits aren't enough to sustain us. So, we need both paychecks as well as the health insurance that my job provides & his doesn't.

With that stark reality, I have come to the realization that if I must work outside the home, then I want to do work that is meaningful & allows me to use my education & expertise to the best of my ability. I have gone about trying to achieve this in a variety of ways...

  • Using my current job as the ultimate learning experience: In this mindset, I try to make the most of my current work experience. I have attended trainings, participated in team projects & done my best to learn & build up my skill set.
  • Finding fulfillment elsewhere: I recently became an adjunct faculty which has helped me find fulfillment in at least some of the work I do! However, it is difficult to be in a lackluster job for 40+ hours a week & balance that feeling of inadequacy with smaller quantities of time where I do find fulfillment.
  • Seeking out other employment opportunities: For the past four to five years, I have been actively looking for another job. I have applied for countless jobs & had at least half a dozen interviews. All of this has honed my job search & interview skills, but has not actually resulted in a change of employers.
  • Pray & trust that God's Will be done: I heard this type of TRUST described as True Resolve Under Severe Testing. Nearly eight years of frustrating job conditions coupled with four small children, opposite work hours with my spouse & a nearly constant job search & I certainly feel like I have been severely tested! I have continued my devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots & offer up my situation routinely in prayer.
I'd rather not look back on all of the difficult & frustrating circumstances of my current job & job search. Quite honestly, it can be painful to feel that you aren't qualified enough for a job or didn't have what the employer was looking for. That quickly spirals into the school of thought, "I wonder if I'll ever get out of here?" So, I'd rather just look forward.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Honestly, I don't know. I'd like to be working on projects I feel passionate about, contributing to a greater good. Providing an example to my children that even though Mommy can't be home full-time, I am spending my time away from them doing good for others. That is rather vague, but given the journey I am on, it's the only answer I can give right now. Hopefully, in God's time, I will go where He leads me & find amazing things along the way.

When I Grow Up ~ Part 1

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Sounds like a simple question. And from a young age, it is something we are routinely asked & seemingly encouraged to think about. But, in my experience, it seems we have many answers to this question. At thirty years of age, I am still struggling (deeply struggling, actually) with how to answer this one question.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a vet (don't we all!?!) & wanted to work with horses. As I got older, I wanted to be an author like my favorite, Laura Ingalls Wilder. In high school, I decided I wanted to be a lawyer & even did a short stint shadowing a local attorney. Although that experience was very boring (in my high school-aged opinion), I continued on with that path & entered college as a pre-law major.

Upon arriving at college, I was greatly disappointed with the pre-law program. All the law courses were taught by the same professor who was not very challenging & didn't appear to have a passion for her students or the material she was teaching. After one semester, I visited the campus where I would be going for law school per the program requirements. Feeling less than impressed with that campus & a gut feeling that it just wasn't for me, I decided to switch majors. In high school, I had taken an accounting course & felt that perhaps that would be a better path. So, the summer after my first year of college, I became an accounting major.

Whether the change was for the better or not, I can't really say. Even though I was an accounting major, I knew I didn't want to be doing audits & taxes my whole life. A terrible internship experience in a CPA firm confirmed that decision. After completing my bachelor's degree in three years, I stayed at the same university to complete a master's of business administration. Knowing I didn't want to be a CPA, I understood the value that an MBA could have in rounding out my business acumen, rather than being pigeon-holed into accounting jobs. I always enjoyed higher education, but really loved the type of learning that the master's-level courses provided.

Upon graduation, I still didn't know what I wanted to do. But I knew I had to build up some real-world experience. So, I took a job as a financial analyst with a manufacturing company. The first six months of the job should have been an indication of what to expect. It was a newly created position & from the beginning, management struggled with finding enough projects/tasks to keep me busy. At this point, I began to develop a terrible, woe-is-me attitude about work. Looking back, I had nothing but negative experiences in job shadowing, internships & now a first job. Why couldn't I find something/someone who loved what they do & emulate that?!

Fast forward...marriage, four kids, home purchase...now nearly eight years later, I am still at the same job I took right out of college. How do I feel about that? Frustrated, angry, emotional, aggravated. I haven't moved "up the ladder" & there isn't really a defined path of where that ladder would go, assuming there was one. No considerable pay raises or leadership/management experience either. I have (thankfully!) been able to have flexibility & the opportunity to work from home when Jesse has retreats or work conferences. But, I often wonder, once our kids are all in school & we don't really need as much flexibility, what will I be doing still working here? It's a question I ponder a lot...along with that nagging question...

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Part Two can be found here.